Ministers must act to stop councils ‘dawdling’ over Local Plans, MPs have said.
In a report published today, the Communities and Local Government Committee said a comprehensive review of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should be carried out before the end of this parliament.
The committee’s inquiry into the Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation on proposed changes to national planning policy found that there has not been sufficient robust, objective and evidence-based monitoring, evaluation or review of the NPPF since it was published in 2012.
The committee said communities will not benefit fully from the NPPF unless their councils properly fulfil their responsibilities to publish and adopt Local Plans - outlining the development policy for the area.
It expressed disappointment that, four years on from the publication of the NPPF, 17% of local authorities still have not published Local Plans and 34% have not yet adopted plans.
Clive Betts MP, chair of the committee, said: ‘Councils need to do more to identify suitable brownfield sites and to protect their communities against the threat of undesirable development by getting an adopted Local Plan in place. The NPPF is designed to work side by side with local plans. It’s simply not good enough that 34% of local authorities don’t have an adopted plan.
‘The Government needs to act to put an end to dawdling local authorities and indicate whether they will take up the recommendation by the minister’s own Local Plans Expert Group, and we call on him to reconsider the recommendation made by our predecessor Committee that a statutory duty should be placed on local authorities to produce and maintain Local Plans.’
Responding to the report, Cllr Peter Box, housing and planning spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: '84% of councils have already published a local plan which identifies land, including brownfield land, which is suitable for housing.
'A huge amount of research and multiple consultations are needed to ensure local plans reflect local opinions and map out development in an area not just over the coming years but over decades. Councils have always said that the process of getting plans in place would take time and the most important thing is to get them right.'
Among the recommendations in the report, the committee said the Government ‘should review the proposals relating to presumption in favour of development of small sites to ensure that local authorities have sufficient flexibility to mitigate against harmful unintended consequences,’ such as the cumulative impact of multiple developments on the transport network.
The committee also recommended that ministers review as a matter of priority the proposed definition of a commuter hub, which would require higher density development ‘wherever feasible’.
This followed concerns that the definition ‘does not take account of whether that infrastructure has, or will have, sufficient capacity to accommodate higher housing density’.